Beechdean Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Driver Andrew Howard’s first column for Racing.GT, reflecting on an eventful opening British GT round at Oulton Park.
“Beechdean has been GT racing for over 12 years and we have been in British GT since 2006. It is great that the championship has reached the amazing levels of cars on the grid this year and testimony to SRO for the hard work they have put in. But (there is always a but) the championship has to be careful. GT racing is about long distance racing and this requires a different type of racing.
“In British GT the idea is that a Gentleman Driver is paired with a professional driver and the racing, using big specially prepared GT cars, is over longer race periods. This means the driving technique is slightly different; it’s about survival as well as attack. This does not mean we do not have competitive, fast paced racing but it does mean that unnecessary contact is detrimental to all parties. The racing technique is different to touring cars or single make championships where the races are shorter and the racing tends to be more frantic. Whilst this is not always the case, the evidence is there for all to see.
“Being a “Gentleman driver” in an ultra-competitive GT racing series is certainly an interesting experience. The aim is to be treated as a normal racing driver but this can only be earned and not bought. Delivery of fast repetitive lap times, staying out of trouble and an ability to overtake is really all the team are looking for. At this level of racing it’s not about having a “bit of fun” but delivering a professional drive working to team orders. Sounds a bit too strict? Well if you want to do well in BGT or any top level GT racing you have to be professional, consistent and listen to your team.
“It’s interesting to watch the professional GT drivers and how they race together. Both in BGT and up to the level of WEC, there is very little contact, great racing but mutual respect. Talent is certainly in charge of ambition and this leads to great racing. Now watch the Gentleman driver’s race, yes more errors occur (we all make them) but surely our job is to provide the same level of professionalism as our driving partners? This is not about one quick lap or a touring car lunge, it’s about improving and learning from our driving partners.
“Oulton was a bad race day for us; we experienced driving errors that cost us both a large amount of money as well as good finishes in the championship. To win BGT you need to finish races (the last 3 years the winners have not won a race!). The Gentleman drivers have a major responsibility to provide safe, exciting racing but the championship organisers need to have the courage to police the driving standards and penalise bad driving. This happened at Oulton but perhaps this should also impact the drivers in the championship race as well.
“Of course people in glass houses should not throw stones. I have been guilty of bad driving standards in the past (apologies to the victims) but my goal is to be a boring professional driver and race around and around until I am told to stop. What does make a difference is an apology, I got this from both drivers last weekend and whilst this does not pay the bills, it certainly means there is no problem next time we form up on the grid.”